REPORT: Crawley Wasps 1 Chichester City 0

Kemina Webber celebrates her goal with captain Naomi Cole (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

By Tom Scarborough at East Court

Kemina Webber’s strike late in the first half secured Wasps a narrow victory and extended their lead at the top of the FA National Women’s League Southern Premier Division.

The 1-0 win over bottom-side Chichester increased the gap to second-placed Watford to nine points.

Webber’s goal, her third of the season, came on her first home league start of the campaign.

The two sides, meeting for the second time in just six days, battled freezing conditions on Wednesday evening at East Court.

After a penalty shoot-out in Wasps’ County Cup final victory on Sunday, both Crawley and Chichester were eager to get stuck into each other once again.

In the early exchanges, Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs was called into action to palm behind Gemma Simmonds’ long-range effort, while at the other end Tash Stephens hit low against her former club, but the chance was collected by Chi ‘keeper Issy Foster.

Tash Stephens in action against her former club (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

Wasps skipper Naomi Cole drove a shot that fell just the wrong side of the post – but just as the first-half looked set to peter out, we struck the crucial blow.

Cole swung in a free-kick from the right and following a short scramble, the ball fell to Webber and last season’s top scorer poked the ball home.

The second half proved to be a quieter affair, with Chi happy to sit deep and Wasps unable to open them up.

Charlotte Owen sent a shot sailing over the bar before Megan Stow’s powerful header was glanced wide. Webber looked to double her tally after turning and shooting in space, but the chance was collected by Foster.

Wasps controlled possession as the match entered the closing stages.

A handful of further half-chances were squandered, including a Chichester corner deep into injury-time, which was defended with purpose as Wasps saw out their 12th league win of the season.

We are next in action on March 8, when we host Keynsham Town at East Court.

Wasps: Gibbs; Nash, Russell, James, Palmer; Cole, Stow; Heather, Owen, Stephens; Webber. Subs not used: Graves, Taylor, Fleischman, Ledezma-Viso.

REPORT & GALLERY: Chichester City 1 Crawley Wasps 1 (Wasps win 4-3 on penalties)

Wasps players and staff celebrate with the trophy, drowned in champagne and confetti (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

Crawley Wasps  lifted the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup for the first time in their history as they beat Chichester City 4-3 on penalties in a tense final at Lancing on Thursday.

Captain Naomi Cole tucked away the deciding spot-kick to spark celebrations after goalkeeper Frankie Gibbs had made a crucial save in the shoot-out.

Earlier, Ellie Russell’s bullet header had given Wasps a half-time lead, which could have been greater – Cole’s long-range shot cannoned off the bar, Rachel Palmer was denied by a fine save and Russell nodded against the post.

But cup holders Chi, who had been restricted to speculative long-range efforts, levelled early in the second half when Megan Fox’s shot was parried by Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs and Rebecca Bell slid in to convert.

Wasps almost went back in front immediately but Emma Plewa’s shot was too close to impressive Chi keeper Issy Foster. At the other end, Gibbs leapt to her right to brilliantly save from Fox’s volley.

Wasps put Chi on the back foot in extra time, with Foster pushing away Cole’s firmly struck shot and denying Sam Pittuck, while Plewa and Kemina Webber both fired narrowly wide of the post.

GALLERY: More pictures from our historic Sussex FA Women’s Challenge Cup win will appear here soon.

It meant the trophy would be decided on penalties, the first shoot-out Wasps have been involved in since a Women’s FA Cup second-round defeat way back in January 2012.

Chi took first and Priscilla Martins scored, but Russell – the goalscorer in normal time and arguably Wasps’ best player over the 120 minutes – sliced wide in response.

However, the scores were then levelled up when Chi’s Jess Burke hit the post and Wasps’ Sian Heather sent Fisher the wrong way.

Gibbs then saved from Sharna Capel-Watson to give Wasps the advantage, strengthened further when Emma Plewa made it 2-1 after three kicks.

Bell and Fox then netted for Chi, but vice-captain Rachel Palmer converted to set up her skipper Cole for the trophy-clinching moment.

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Nash, Owen, Cole, Stow, Stephens; Pittuck, Heather. Subs (rolling): Plewa, Webber, Ledezma-Viso, Fleischman. Unused: Graves.

REPORT: Hounslow 0 Crawley Wasps 5

Hat-trick hero Sian Heather in action at Hounslow (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

Sian Heather scored a hat-trick – her first goals since becoming a mother – as Crawley Wasps cruised to a 5-0 win at struggling Hounslow on Sunday.

Charlotte Owen and Kemina Webber also found the target in Wasps’ biggest victory since September, which keeps them top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Hounslow, formerly QPR, were winless this season, scoring just three goals and conceding 62 in 11 matches, prior to taking on Paul Walker’s side.

And while the hosts threatened occasionally on the break, Wasps were in control from the moment Heather – whose last goal came in January 2019 – tapped in Megan Stow’s 12th-minute cross.

Sam Pittuck saw a shot blocked by the keeper, Ellie Russell hit the bar with a header and Stow fired across goal but Wasps were restricted to the single goal before half time.

GALLERY: More of Alan Sillwood-Brown’s photos from the game will appear here soon

After the break, though, Wasps were more dominant. Owen converted Tash Stephens cross five minutes into the second half and substitute Webber finished from Rachel Palmer’s corner for 3-0.

Heather then showed her poacher’s instinct to net twice more from close range, first after Webber’s sliced shot fell to her and then after Emma Plewa had been denided by the keeper.

With Watford not in action, Wasps are now six points clear at the top but having played two games more than the Hornets.

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer (Rodrigues Anes 73); Nash, Stow, Fleischman, Owen, Stephens (Plewa 62); Pittuck (Webber 55), Heather. Subs not used: Graves, Ledezma-Viso.

REPORT & GALLERY: Crawley Wasps 2 Cardiff City 0

Wasps players celebrate the opening goal with scorer Megan Stow (second left). Picture: Ben Davidson Photography.

Megan Stow’s fine first-minute strike inspired Crawley Wasps to an impressive 2-0 victory over Cardiff City on Sunday.

Fellow midfielder Naomi Cole grabbed the second from the penalty spot as Wasps returned to the top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

They are now three points clear of Watford, who have a game in hand after they were in Women’s FA Cup action at the weekend.

Paul Walker’s team have now won 44 of their last 50 league games, dating back to the beginning of the 2017-18 season.

Stow got the afternoon off to the perfect start when she latched on to a weak defensive header and drilled a first-time shot low into the corner from 25 yards.

GALLERY: For more of Ben Davidson’s photos from the game, CLICK HERE

Wasps had further half chances in the first half, with Rachel Palmer, Charlotte Owen, Stow and Sam Pittuck looking particularly lively.

Cardiff were also a threat on the break, though Wasps’ Darcey James was excellent at the back and keeper Frankie Gibbs gathered in a shot from the edge of the box.

Stow nodded wide from a corner soon after half time, Pittuck drilled inches past the far post and sub Ariana Fleischman had an effort saved as Wasps continued to press.

They got breathing space when player of the match Tash Stephens was adjudged to have been fouled in the box, and Cole netted the penalty.

Wasps were also able to introduce new signing Stephanie Rodrigues Anes late on as they saw out the victory.

We travel to second-from-bottom Hounslow this Sunday (2pm).

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Ledezma-Viso (Nash 55), Stow (Rodrigues Anes 81), Cole, Owen, Stephens; Pittuck, Heather (Fleischman 60). Subs not used: Graves, Webber.

REPORT: Brighton Academy 0 Crawley Wasps 2

Sam Pittuck, seen here playing against Plymouth, got Wasps’ opening goal against Brighton (Picture: Alan Sillwood-Brown)

Crawley Wasps manager Paul Walker is targeting another shot at silverware next month after his side booked a place in the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup final.

Goals from Sam Pittuck and Naomi Cole gave Wasps a 2-0 win in the semi-final over Brighton & Hove Albion Academy on Sunday.

They will face either divisional rivals Chichester or Lewes’s Development Squad on February 20, in what will be Wasps’ fourth County Cup final in five seasons.

And after losing all three of their previous finals, twice to Brighton and once to Lewes, Walker is keen to make amends.

He said: “It’s great to get to finals but it’s quite tough watching the opposition picking up medals and the trophy, so let’s hope this time around – with the quality we have – it’s going to be us.”

Against Albion’s youngsters, Charlotte Owen was denied an opener by a fine save but Pittuck broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when she converted Maria Ledezma-Viso’s teasing ball in.

Wasps were almost undone just before the break when a Brighton free-kick came back off the bar.

But they extended their lead 12 minutes into the second half when Kemina Webber had her ankles tapped in the box and Cole converted the penalty.

We return to league action on Sunday when we host Cardiff City at East Grinstead Town’s East Court stadium (2pm kick off).

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Ledezma-Viso, Owen, Cole, Stow, Stephens; Pittuck, Webber. Subs: Graves, Nash, Fleischman.

REPORT: Plymouth Argyle 0 Crawley Wasps 1

Wasps’ goalscorer Rachel Palmer on the ball at Plymouth (Picture: Ben Davidson Photography)

Crawley Wasps returned to action on Sunday with an excellent 1-0 win at Plymouth as they moved level on points with Watford at the top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Left-back Rachel Palmer’s well struck goal from outside the box 10 minutes from time secured Wasps an impressive victory on the road at third-placed Argyle.

Palmer and Sian Heather both sent early chances wide while Helen Bleazard sent Plymouth’s best chance of the first half just over.

Soon after the break, Wasps’ Charlotte Owen was denied by a fine save and Bleazard remained the hosts’ biggest threat.

With time running out, Palmer struck her fourth goal of a productive season and the points were secured by keeper Frankie Gibbs’ save from Tash Knapman.

This Sunday, Wasps will hope to book a place in the Sussex FA Women’s County Cup final as they host Brighton & Hove Albion’s Development Squad.

Wasps: Gibbs; Russell, James, Palmer; Ledezma-Viso, Cole, Stow (Simmons 69), Stephens (Webber 89); Pittuck, Heather. Subs not used: Graves, Newman.

REPORT & GALLERY: Crawley Wasps 3 Portsmouth 1

Emma Plewa celebrates her second goal – and Wasps third – against Portsmouth Picture: Ben Davidson Photography)

The returning Emma Plewa inspired Crawley Wasps to a 3-1 victory over Portsmouth on Sunday, which put them back on top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Former Wales international Plewa set up the opening goal and then scored twice herself on her first league appearance since April.

A hard-fought game, played on a heavy pitch at East Grinstead Town FC, kept a season’s-best crowd of 235 thoroughly entertained.

Visitors Portsmouth, whose boss Jay Sadler won October’s manager of the month award, started brightly with Jade Bradley forcing Wasps keeper Frankie Gibbs into a fine early save.

But against the run of play, Paul Walker’s side took the lead on 17 minutes. Plewa delivered from the left and fellow winger Tash Stephens converted from close range against her former club.

GALLERY: For more of Ben Davidson’s pictures from the Gillingham game, CLICK HERE

Wasps skipper Naomi Cole then drove narrowly past the angle of post and bar, but Pompey equalised when Gibbs tipped Tamsin De Bunsen’s shot on to the bar and Jade Widdows netted the rebound.

However, Wasps went back in front moments later as Charlotte Young’s ball sent Plewa clear and she coolly slotted low into the far corner.

Pompey then went down to 10 men after Katie James was sent off for an attempted kick out.

But despite their staff-shortage, the visitors kept the second half very competitive, although clear-cut chances were at a premium.

Widdows and Wasps’ Sam Pittuck went close at either end before Plewa wrapped things up on 77 minutes with another run and clinical finish.

Wasps: Gibbs; Nash, Russell, James, Palmer; Young, Cole; Stephens (Ledezma-Viso 71), Stow (Drury 71), Plewa; Pittuck (Carter 82). Subs not used: Graves, Owen.

REPORT: MK Dons 0 Crawley Wasps 2

Crawley Wasps players, and first-team coach Mike Gardner, relax in the Stadium:MK dugout as they prepare for the game.

Terrific late goals from full-backs Hope Nash and Rachel Palmer secured Crawley Wasps a 2-0 win at MK Dons on Sunday.

It was a result that put us back on top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Paul Walker’s side had stuttered in a dramatic 2-2 home draw with Gillingham last Wednesday, but got back to winning ways in the plush surroundings of the 30,000-capacity Stadium:MK, in front of a healthy crowd of 399.

Charlotte Young and Tash Stephens fired over the bar for the visitors in the first half but MK Dons threatened on several occasions after the break, with Wasps’ teenage keeper Lauren Graves forced into a couple of good stops.

The Dons also hit the woodwork and the hosts’ frustration was compounded in the last minute of normal time when right-back Nash – a summer arrival at Wasps from Crystal Palace – shot home from just outside the box.

And the win was confirmed when left-back Palmer fired a free-kick into the far corner.

Wasps: Graves; Nash, Young, Russell, Palmer; Cole, Stow (Fleischman 65); Ledezma-Viso (Pittuck 65), Owen, Stephens; Carter. Sub not used: Green.

REPORT & GALLERY: Crawley Wasps 2 Gillingham 2

Celebrations after Naomi Cole’s spectacular goal – but they were to be cut short moments later (Picture: Ben Davidson Photography)

Naomi Cole’s spectacular 50th goal for Crawley Wasps was not enough for victory as Gillingham snatched a point late on amid a dramatic and at times chaotic finish.

Skipper Cole hit the bar in the opening minute and Rebecca Carter saw an effort turned away by Gills keeper Cara Davies as Wasps started brightly.

But that was as good as it got for Paul Walker’s side in the first half, with Lauren Graves forced into a save to deny Georgia Pearch.

Tash Stephens finally broke the deadlock 10 minutes into the second half, stooping to head in Cole’s cross.

Both Davies and Graves tidied up well in goal at times to thwart and disrupt attacks and it seemed as if Wasps were heading for a workmanlike win.

But the game exploded into life in the closing stages, with three superb goals and a red card.

GALLERY: For more of Ben Davidson’s pictures from the Gillingham game, CLICK HERE

First, on 88 minutes, Ellie Jeffkins’ struck a free kick from distance beyond Graves to pull the Gills level, but almost immediately, Cole produced a moment of magic to beat the scrambling Davies from 40 yards to seemingly win it.

However, Wasps failed to manage the game and a quick counter sent Grace Harrison away and her perfect lob over Graves in injury time earned Gillingham a point.

There was still time for Wasps’ Niamh Stephenson to be sent off, deemed to be denying a clear goalscoring opportunity despite being some way out from goal, and that sparked a brief melee.

When that calmed down, Graves gathered in a shot from distance and the spoils were shared.

Wasps: Graves; Nash, Russell, James, Niamh Stephenson; Drury, Cole; Ledezma-Viso, Stow, Stephens (Owen 73); Carter (Pittuck 84). Subs not used: Palmer, Fleischman.

REPORT: Crawley Wasps 3 Oxford United 1

Darcey James heads in Crawley Wasps’ third goal (Picture: Ben Davidson Photography)

Crawley Wasps scored three times in eight second-half minutes to defeat Oxford United 3-1 on Sunday and remain top of the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division.

Wasps had trailed to a Gemma Sims header shortly after the break but their response – inspired by the lively Faye Rabson – was swift, incisive and match-changing.

Not even the sending off of Wasps goalkeeper Frankie Gibbs late on could let Oxford back into the game.

The victory – their sixth in seven league games since promotion – keeps Wasps three points clear of Plymouth and five ahead of Cardiff in the third tier of women’s football.

Oxford started brightly, with Kayleigh Hines flashing a shot wide and Georgia Timms testing Gibbs, while at the other end Charlotte Owen twice went close and Tash Stephens shot straight at Oxford keeper Aimee Watson.

GALLERY: For more of Ben Davidson’s pictures from this game, CLICK HERE

The goal the game needed came when Sims’ downward header from a corner put Oxford in front.

The lead lasted just six minutes, as Rabson was sent tumbling near the byline and Wasps captain Naomi Cole converted the resulting penalty.

Rabson then put the hosts in front, latching on to Owen’s threaded pass and keeping her cool to slide the ball past Watson.

Wasps extended their lead further when Darcey James nodded in Cole’s corner at the far post.

Gibbs was shown a red card after her outstretched hand caught Cheryl Williams in the face, with her replacement Lauren Graves making a good save from Georgia Clifford to keep Oxford at bay.

Wasps: Gibbs; Nash, Russell, James, Palmer; Cole, Stow (Drury 76); Ledezma-Viso (Fleischman 69), Owen, Rabson (Graves 81); Stephens. Subs not used: Young, Webber.